Buying a house – when things aren’t quite what they seem….

It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of finding a property especially in this internet age where you can see so much of a house before you ever go to view it. But there are other considerations to bear in mind over and above the number of rooms, garden and location so do your homework and try not to let your heart rule your head.

The House…

You will probably have given some thought to how much work you are prepared to do to a property and will have tailored your house search accordingly. So it is important to make sure you look carefully when viewing so you don’t have any shocks when the valuation is carried out. If you are purchasing the property to include appliances, check those appliances are in working order! Sounds obvious we know, but many people don’t do it. Similarly, turn on the taps & check that they work and that the water pressure is reasonable. Cast your eye over the double glazing units to see whether they are intact, and make sure there are keys available for the window locks & that the locks work.

Outside, you might want to take a brief look at the brickwork – diagonal cracks could be a sign of subsidence and you should check whether the guttering is intact and whether the soffits, fascia and bargeboards are in good condition. Back inside it is worth having a quick glance at the fuse box to see if it is modern with flip switches or older with fuse wire. Find out whether there is loft or cavity wall insulation & ask the owner when the boiler was last serviced.

Should you decide to go ahead with the purchase you can elect to instruct a homebuyer’s report which gives a good indication of the state of the property and its level of repair and expected maintenance but it is still worthwhile keeping your eyes peeled for potential problems in the meantime.

….And it’s surrounds

You can alter pretty much anything inside a house but you can’t change its location. Whilst it is commonplace to check for good local schools & amenities, it is perhaps less well remembered to check other geographical issues. Now we have a south facing garden, we can’t imagine going back to a garden with a different aspect. If the location of the sun is important to you, make sure you find out where it will be in relation to your property. Failure to do so may see you spending all summer covered in fake tan because your garden is unexpectedly north facing!

Similarly, have a good look at the surrounding gardens. If the neighbourhood frontages are uncared for and unkempt, it may tell a story about the sort of neighbours you will inherit. Visit the property at different times of day to assess noise level and activity. Ask the vendor of the property what the neighbours are like and meet them if at all possible. It would be a great shame to discover your new neighbours use their south facing garden to practice naturism throughout the summer, and you didn’t know because you neglected to ask the vendor about them when you had a chance!

Another thing that you may want to consider is the crime levels in your chosen area. We were in two minds whether to comment on this since our last foray into the website left us feeling that our well-loved & safe village was, in fact, a hotbed of violent crime & vice. Nevertheless, it does keep you well informed about local criminal matters and may be a deciding factor.

If it’s so good, why are they moving….?

Yes, indeed – why are the owners of the property moving? Is there a genuine need to relocate (bigger house, change of school) or is there something more sinister to consider. Perhaps there is a promotion in the offing, hence the house sale or perhaps they have just had enough of Mr-next-door-neighbour gardening in the nude at midnight. And while you are having an honest exchange of views, ask what they are prepared to include in the sale? It can be useful to know at an early stage whether you can make an offer to include carpets, curtains, appliances etc. It is also a good time to find out what the council tax is and an average cost for utility bills.

One thing definitely worth considering now we are firmly entrenched in the internet age is broadband speed. Although the majority of British homes now have access to broadband, the speed at which they are connected varies widely and this might be a serious consideration if you work from home. It is worth taking time to check this if you decide to offer on a property.

Asking the right questions and keeping your eyes open can pay dividends in the short term to give you clues about possible difficulties before you consult the specialists. Don’t forget to ask questions, both of your vendor and the estate agent & before you know it you will be properly acquainted with your future house.

By Jacqui Beard